Martínez keeps watch on maillot oro
Sébastien Hinault, 34, took his second win of the season in stage ten of the Vuelta a España. The Crédit Agricole rider won with a kick down the right hand side of Zaragoza's finishing straight, setting up a French one-two with Loyd Mondory of Team AG2R La Mondiale and Silence-Lotto's Greg Van Avermaet in third. Cycling's big guns, Oscar Freire and Tom Boonen finished fourth and fifth.
"The team was very motivated because the sponsor is not continuing," said Hinault, who is without a team for 2009.
"The last ten kilometres were not very fast. It didn't start to accelerate until Pozzato from Liquigas attacked," he continued as he described the finale that saw him get the jump on multiple World Champions. "Boonen or Freire? They are both great sprinters, it depends a bit on how the sprint unfolds. At the Tour of Germany I already won a bunch sprint with Tom Boonen there."
Hinault's last win came in the Tour du Limousin. He took the win in stage three to Cublac over Australia's Allan Davis on his way to claiming the overall of the four-day race.
The appearance of Mondory in the top three surprised some Vuelta fans. The 26 year-old gunned for his third win of the season today. He fell short, but can look back on a year highlighted with wins in stage two of Paris-Corrèze and GP Kanton Aargau. "Since a few months now I have gained confidence. I arrived in Spain with good legs and with the objective of a stage victory." While he was happy with second, Mondory now wants to go all the way. "Now everything is possible and I still believe in my chances until the end of the Vuelta."
Van Avermaet was easily recognisable in third. The Belgian won yesterday's stage and seems to be writing himself into the Belgian national team for Worlds with two spots up on the team's leader, Boonen. Van Avermaet will be even more recognisable in the next stage, as he took over the blue points jersey from Alejandro Valverde.
Oro kept safe
Thanks to handy pace-making by Team Euskaltel-Euskadi, Egoi Martínez conserved the overall leader's maillot oro. The Spanish team kept control on the day marked by the 104-kilometre escape of Slovakian Matej Jurco of Team Milram.
"I went away over the top of the climb. I was really hoping someone would join me. It was really hard out there with the wind," said Jurco. "I was very happy to be in the break and to win both sprints. I was going well, but it was difficult. I only got caught seven kilometres from the line."
His move went after an uphill start. Despite attempts by Russian Mikhail Ignatiev (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Spaniard Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) to ride free after the departure from Sabiñánigo, France's Team Cofidis controlled the race in the first hour. It wanted to make sure that winner of stage eight, Frenchman David Moncoutié (Cofidis), stayed safely in his red jersey of mountains leader. The day only contained one climb, the 11 kilometre run up Alto de Monrepós, at kilometre 34.
Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick Step) shot out for maximum points, but Moncoutié claimed third behind Nikita Eskov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) to keep his jersey. "It was a transitional stage, one for the sprinters. I had a quiet day and added points to the mountain jersey," Moncoutié said, in red by 32 points after stage ten.
Jurco after the Monrepós
After the top of the Alto de Monrepós, Slovakian Jurco darted clear. Eyes shifted to Egoi Martínez's team to take up the reins after Cofidis relinquished control. Euskaltel set a tempo that allowed Jurco, winner of his country's road and time trial championships, to gain six minutes by kilometre 67.
At kilometre 84, the 24 year-old rider from Poprad reached what would be his maximum advantage of the day – 7'20". Euskaltel – along with CSC-Saxo Bank and AG2R – started to put the squeeze on the lone star. His advantage was down to two and a half minutes at kilometre 114, near Zuera.
Jurco's move seemed to be over with 20 kilometres to go to Zaragoza. Spaniard José Antonio López of Team Andalucía-Cajasur blasted out of the pack and quickly closed down on Jurco. The duo worked together well over the next ten kilometres. Frenchmen Yannick Talabardon (Crédit Agricole) and Mickaël Delage (Française des Jeux) bridged over as the peloton finally closed the gap.
Liquigas closes down
Despite the overnight departure of Daniel Bennati – winner of two stages – and the crash of Alessandro Vanotti, Team Liquigas took over control in the final eight kilometres for Italian Filippo Pozzato. It closed down the escape and handled the counter-attacks with teams Gerolsteiner and Cofidis chipping in on the work.
Quick Step put five men on the front in the final three kilometres for Boonen. Milram, Crédit Agricole and Liquigas fell behind the Belgian team over the wide run in where Erik Zabel won two years prior. Two kilometres later, the blue train of the 2005 World Champion ran off its rails. Boonen's former team-mate, Pozzato, darted off the front.
The tricky corners – particularly the nasty left-hander near 500 metres – played into Pozzato's favour. Milram and Bouygues Telecom closed in on the Italian at 100 metres as Hinault click into gear on the right side of the finishing straight.
Stage 11 - September 10: Calahorra - Burgos, 178km
The only other longer transfer sees the rider start the stage from Calahorra, which hosts a stage start for the second year in a row. Unlike last year, when the race headed to Zaragoza, this time the peloton is westward bound and will end up in Burgos. Despite the category three el Alto de la Pradilla after 115 of the 178 kilometres, the sprinters are once again expected to battle it out for the stage glory.
Burgos hosts a Vuelta finish for the 10th time. Burgos is the capital of the province of Burgos, with about 151.3,000 inhabitants. The laws of Burgos ("Leyes de Burgos") were declared here in 1512. Those laws were invented with regards to treatment of the American native Indians by the Spanish settlers.
Full report to follow.
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